Apoaequorin: What You Need to Know (2024)

What Is Apoaequorin?

Apoaequorin is a protein found in glow-in-the-dark jellyfish called Aequorea victoria. A lab-made version of apoaequorin is the main ingredient in the over-the-counter dietary supplement called Prevagen, which claims to improve mild memory loss linked to aging.

If you've thought about trying Prevagen, it's important to be well-informed. Here's what you need to know about Prevagen, a product that calls itself a "brain health supplement."

Apoaequorin supplement facts

There's no established recommended dose for this supplement. Factors to consider include your age and overall health. In one study, people took 10 milligrams daily. In research involving people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), they took 20 milligrams several times a day, up to 200 milligrams. This supplement appears to be safe, based on early research and results of people taking it, but there haven't been any long-term studies to back that up.

How Does Apoaequorin Work?

Prevagen is a daily capsule or tablet that comes in three strengths: 10, 20, and 40 milligrams of apoaequorin. Its website says it's not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. And the company that makes it says it's intended for healthy people who don't have dementia.

Apoaequorin is a "calcium-binding protein," and research links calcium to brain health and memory. An imbalance of calcium in brain nerve cells called neurons might play a role in aging the cells, destroying them, and disrupting signals between them.

But could swallowing calcium-binding protein based on jellyfish somehow benefit your human brain? Research suggests it doesn't. The apoaequorin in Prevagen likely gets digested by your stomach before any of it stands a chance of reaching your brain.

Apoaequorin also has been studied as a treatment for ALS, which is sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease. It's also being looked at as a possible way to protect the brain during strokes, but that research has been carried out only on rats, not humans. Researchers also want to know whether it can improve sleep, energy, and the overall quality of life for older people.

The FDA doesn't regulate supplements the way it does drugs in the U.S. The FDA doesn't sign off on the safety or effectiveness of supplements before they go on the market for consumers. The makers of the supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe.

Does Apoaequorin Improve Memory?

There isn’t strong research that apoaequorin taken by mouth boosts memory. The Prevagen website points to one small study that was sponsored by the supplement’s maker.

The study looked at 218 adults aged 40-91 who said they had concerns about their memory. The researchers randomly assigned some of them to take capsules with 10 milligrams of Prevagen daily for 90 days, while the rest were given placebo capsules that had only white flour in them. All of the participants then took nine computerized tests over the course of the study to gauge their thinking-related skills.

By the end of the study, the researchers said that some of the people who took Prevagen showed slight improvements on a few of the tests compared with the placebo group. Those people had little or no cognitive impairment, which is trouble with remembering, learning new things, focusing, or making key decisions. The researchers concluded that Prevagen could "improve aspects of cognitive function" in people with normal brain-related aging or very mild cognitive impairment.

Some neuroscientists had a different take on the results. They said the study didn't show that people who took Prevagen benefited significantly more than the placebo group. The study participants reported beforehand that they had memory problems, but that's not the same as testing the supplement on people who all have an official diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Also, experts usually don't consider the findings of one small study as clear proof of anything. It typically takes several large studies to confirm early results.

Don't take any new supplement without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first. If you want to try a product containing apoaequorin, ask them if it might affect any health conditions you have or any medications or supplements you take. Also ask if you should take the lowest dose and stop after 90 days, as the safety of high doses or long-term use, or both, hasn't been well-studied.

Apoaequorin Side Effects

The company that makes Prevagen hired two doctors to review possible side effects (also called adverse events) reported by people taking the supplement containing apoaequorin. Some people said they had:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Edema (swelling due to fluid buildup in tissues)
  • High blood pressure

The doctors concluded that all serious adverse events were linked to other health conditions or were unrelated to using the supplement.

There are two word-of-mouth reports from people with multiple sclerosis who took apoaequorin supplements. One person said they developed low blood pressure, and the other said they became depressed with suicidal thoughts. It's not clear if these events were related to taking apoaequorin.

Based on current evidence and widespread use, apoaequorin supplements seem to be "well-tolerated" for most people without health conditions who take a low dose for 90 days.

Quincy Bioscience Controversy and Lawsuit

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and the state of New York took legal action against Quincy Bioscience, which marketed Prevagen, citing the company's false claims about how effective the supplement was. The ad campaign for Prevagan said it was "clinically shown" to improve memory and provide cognitive benefits.

In 2020, the company settled the lawsuit. It was allowed to keep marketing Prevagen, but it was told to use specific, approved language. Prevagan must carry a disclaimer that says "based on a clinical study of subgroups of individuals who were cognitively normal or mildly impaired," rather than saying it is "clinically shown" to be effective.

What's the Bottom Line About Supplements for Memory?

The U.S. FDA has not evaluated Prevagen for safety and effectiveness and has tried to curb claims that it may help memory. It has taken the stance that "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Many experts advise against taking supplements that claim to improve your memory. A group of scientists, doctors, scholars, and policy experts brought together by the AARP said it couldn't recommend any ingredient or supplement marketed for brain health after reviewing the available research. The group concluded that a healthy diet was the best way to get brain-boosting nutrients.

The Alzheimer's Association cautions that claims about memory-enhancing dietary supplements are mostly based on very little science.

If you're having trouble with your memory, talk to your doctor. They'll help you figure out what's going on, and they'll recommend ways to help you get your memory working as well as possible.

Takeaways

Apoaequorin is a protein found in jellyfish. Scientists have developed a lab-made version that some believe will help fight age-related memory loss. It's sold over the counter using the brand name Prevagen. Some experts have expressed doubts about the research behind the supplement and whether it's really effective in boosting memory. The company behind it had to change some of its marketing language after the Federal Trade Commission took legal action.

Apoaequorin FAQs

What is apoaequorin used for?

Apoaequorin is sold under the brand name Prevagen as a dietary supplement to help boost your memory and cognitive function, although the research to support those claims is sparse. Researchers also are studying whether it can benefit people who have ALS.

Who cannot take Prevagen?

The supplement hasn't been studied extensively, so we don't know much about potential side effects or drug interactions. Check with your doctor before you start taking any supplements.

What is the No. 1 supplement for memory?

There's no clear evidence about any dietary supplement having a positive effect on memory.

Apoaequorin: What You Need to Know (2024)
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